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Vashon to Himeji 2006

Vashon to Himeji Trip Itinerary

Tuesday, April 4

Fly to San Francisco

Board connecting flight to Osaka
Wednesday, April 5
Arrive in Japan
Travel by bullet train to Kyoto
Stay overnight at Hitoya-Zuihokaku Ryokan Hotel

See the Hatoya-Zuihokaku Hotel in Kyoto

After flying sardine style for over 11 hours we were met at the aiport by Mr. Shioki and Himeji Minami`s Vice-Principal.  We exchanged our traveller's cheques as fast as 22 people can and walked very briskly to the train station at Kansai.  We arrived a little late in Japan and missed the train with reserved seats but took the next one with little difficulty-in Japan there is almost always another train coming!
Our hotel was just a few short blocks from the train station and we were so happy to reach it!
The students had their first shopping experience in Japan and bought dinner and snacks at the nearest combini (Convenience Store-it`s NOTHING like convenience stores in America.  Lots of things you really do want to eat!).
The students were amazed by the musical tones of the crosswalk warnings, the train announcements and the crowds of people all speaking Japanese so rapidly.
Many students donned their Japanese style bathrobes, Yukata, and had their first Japanese style bath.  Bryan, Joe and Dan, not heeding sensei`s warnings, experimented with the Japanese toilet/fountain in their room.  Luckily there were no casualties.
We loved stretching out on the fluffy futons and getting as much sleep as possible...the teachers were up at 2:30, 3:30, 4:30...

Are the cherry blossoms blooming? Yes!


Thursday, April 6
Tour Kyoto visiting temples, shrines
Travel by bus to Himeji
Meet homestay families
We met at 7:30 for breakfast and oh what a breakfast!  There were twenty-two low tray tables set up around three sides of our own private, Japanese-style banquet room.  We cooked our own eggs in butter over our own little stove.  There was corn soup. a variety of bread with jam and butter, cabbage and cucumber salad with ham and potato salad and a bright orange, Russian-type dressing, and coffee, milk or orange juice that we had to order the night before.  The kids thought the breakfast was the best ever.
Our lovely tour guide and very luxurious touring bus met us and Mr. Shioki (the hardest working teacher in Japan!) at our hotel.  Chieko Ishii gave us a running commentary about everything we passed and the kids were simply glued to the windows drinking in all of the wonderful Japanese sights.
We were able to tour the Imperial Palace first.  This is only open a few days a year-in the spring and the fall-so we were very lucky.  The students were very impressed with the gardens and the architecture and have just begun to discover the exciting things available in convenient vending machines everywhere!
Next we toured Kinkakuji-the Golden Temple.  It is a beautiful place and the students enjoyed it very much.  The big discovery at this place were the charms sold by the monks to guarantee good health, long life, safe driving, protection from general calamity and more.
We stopped for lunch in Teramachi-a district famous for wooden block prints.  Scott claimed to have had the most unusual hamburger-it included a fried egg, lots of chopped onion and tons of tartar sauce.  Many students enjoyed soba noodles and Mia had rotating sushi that comes around to your table on a conveyer belt!
After lunch we visited Kiyomizudera which is a very beautiful temple and shrine complex.  The shopping street just below this temple was very popular with the students who bought donuts, wooden practice swords, bean paste snacks and much more.
Before leaving us our tour guide complimented our group-she said they were the best group she had ever had!  She mentioned both their Japanese speaking ability and their beautiful, respectful Japanese manners.  They are representing themselves, VHS, Vashon and the United States very well.  Much appreciation should be given to their teacher, Ms. Williams, for all of time and effort she has spent getting the students ready to be such excellent examples.
The bus ride to Himeji was 1 1\2 hours and very peaceful.
We were greeted at Himeji Minami High School by many teachers and excited parents and students.  Our tired students were taken home to be treated as honored guests by their new families.


View our Kyoto Photos

Friday, April 7

Visit Mt. Shosha and Himeji Castle
We met the students and Mr. Shioki at the main train station of Himeji along with 12 assorted homestay sisters this morning at 9:00. The kids were full of wonderful stories of their adventures in bathing, dining, speaking Japanese and learning about their Japanese families.  One student who was asked for his breakfast preferences was served all of the options-when he kept eating and eating his family said he didn`t have to keep eating to be polite. But he was hungry so he kept eating and made his family very proud.
We rode an incredibly crowded city bus to Mt. Shosha and made some new friends along the way. The ropeway up Mt. Shosha is a panoramic experience of the highest order! At the top of the ropeway we hiked up a road lined with almost 100 buddhas.
We arrived on an incredibly auspicious day for the Buddhist religion-a Buddha that had not been viewed for 800 years was on display today. We were ushered, shoeless, into a beautiful tatami room and allowed to see a gorgeous, purple black buddha-about 2 feet in height. The next viewing of this beautiful artifact will be in 100 years so this truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The walk on the mountain with some of their homestay family was a great bonding time for our students.  The Japanese girls are very eager to speak English and are lovely to talk to-they even paid a little attention to the teachers!
We ate lunch, the kids` okaasans had packed them obentos, in the middle of a huge on-going Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing) party in front of Himeji Castle. It was very crowded and noisy but very good-tempered-the blossoms seem to put everyone in Japan in a festive mood.
Our tour guide for Himeji Castle was an elderly gentleman. He started off speaking very rapid, good English and told us that his nickname was Mr. Machine Gun!  He was educated at UC Berkely almost 40 years before. He was filled with detailed information about the beautiful castle and didn`t let our students get away with anything!  The kids loved his banter and the hilarious comments he said to them throughout the tour!  We kept count of the times 6 feet 7 inch Bryan had to crouch or bend to get through a door way or was 28 times. After the tour the students went home or out to other events with their homestay families.
After the first jitters our students have taken to their Japanese families like ducks to water! We know they will have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, April 8
Activities with host families

Sunday, April 9
Activities with host families

Monday, April 10

Visit Himeji-Minami High School
Opening Ceremony
Shopping and Karaoke

We met at Himeji Minami High School early in the morning and got ready for speaking Japanese in front of the teachers of the school. We all went to the Teacher's room to perform self-introductions (to much applause).

After that we filed down to the gymnasium to take part in the opening ceremony for the new school year. After speeches by the principal and Mr. Shioki we filed up on state. Jenna Shiosaki gave a great Japanese speech followed by a speech in English by the Student Body President. After that we were free to go!

We took the train to downtown Himeji and the kids shopped, had lunch and wandered. They were very independent and able to do lots of things on their own!

We met in the afternoon for karaoke. The kids sang a wide variety of songs from 80's specialities to Japanese favorites to Rock. Kids met back up with their families at various train stations-the transit in Japan is something our country should aspire to!


Tuesday, April 11

Bullet train to Hiroshima
Visit Miyajima and stay overnight at Miyajima Morinoyado Inn.

We met at the Himeji station and boarded our bullet train after purchasing breakfast and snacks at the great mini-marts in the station. Bullet trains are so fast and smooth and comfortable-anyone who gets to ride on them is lucky!
We arrive in Hiroshima and expected to go straight to the Peace Museum. Instead Mr. Shioki said it was time for lunch. Many places were not open yet and the kids had just eaten on the train so most kids went shopping.
We boarded a bus and were surprised to find ourselves on our way to the Mazda factory. The Mazda factory? This was not on our itinerary!
We spent close to three hours on busses and touring the loud, stinky factory but at least our students got the check email at the Tully's in the lobby.
We were very happy to be back on track in the afternoon and on our way to the Miyajima ferry dock.
The kids were so happy and comfortable boarding the foot ferry to Miyajima and, after walking to our lovely hotel, scattered to shop and explore.
We had a banquet dinner of unusual and beautifully arranged foods, attended by some students dressed as samurais complete with newly-purchases swords!
We walked down to see the shrine and torii gates lit up for night and then students went on walks, saw tanukis, went to the onsen and had a great time!
Curfew at the hotel was 10:00 and all the students were in their rooms by about 10:45.

See the Miyajima Morinoyado Inn

Click for Information about Miyajima

Wednesday, April 12

Sightseeing on Miyajima and in Hiroshima
Return to Himeji by bullet train

We met for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. and the kids enjoyed another great Japanese breakfast. After packing up our bags we hiked to the bottom of the ropeway. The Japanese tourists were very interested in our students!

We took the ropeway to near the top of Mt. Misen and look for monkeys...darn! No monkeys this time! Students split up to hike, sight see, take photos and buy charms at the Buddhist temples. Many students hiked all the way to the very top and were amazed by the powerful view.

Students spent the rest of the morning sight-seeing, shopping, eating and being amazed by the natural beauty of the place.

We met at the ferry dock at 12:20 (once again everybody was exactly on time) and caught the ferry to Hiroshima.

We took a street car to the Atom Bomb Dome. This bent and fire-torn building is a very strong reminder of the destructive power that was unleashed on this city.

We walked to the Peace Museum and toured the exhibits. It is always difficult for American students to balance their pride in their country with the destruction they know their government has brought to a place they have just learned to love.

We traveled by street car the the Shinkansen station and then home to Himeji. The bullet train (shinkansen) was wonderful as usual although most students slept through the trip. They have been active with very little sleep for several days now (teachers too!).

And even more photos!

Thursday, April 13

Visit Hirohata Kindergarten and Miyochin Ironworks
Sayonara Party

We met at the main train station in Himeji and boarded a city bus to Miyochin Ironworks. The opposite of the Mazda factory this is a tiny workshop staffed by the master Myochin and his three sons. They hand-craft beautiful iron chimes, swords and other products as their ancestors have since the 800's!

The second son constructed the sword for The Last Samuria and spent several weeks in New Zealand with Tom Cruise as the sword master. The Myochins have had an imperial license to make their products for centuries and the students truly appreciated the history and hand-craftedness of the product.

While waiting to purchase chimes the students met one of the neighbors-an elderly man was pulling up his sleeves and talking animatedly to our students. He was showing them his bullet wounds and knife scar from World War II!! Many students looked a little scared at first but the man declared that we were all friends now and everything was OK!

The nature of the Japanese people seems to be to forgive a strong opponent and adopt his strengths. Amazing!

Later we stopped for lunch and then walked to the Hirohata Kindergarten where our students were paired up with 4 and 5 year old Japanese students for a spirited romp on the playground.

This is always one of the most treasured experiences of our students. The kids are so welcoming and entertained by the antics of their new gigantic friends. A meeting of the minds like this always changes the lives of all of those involved!

I can't tell you enough about the joy and laughter that we see each time our big kids meet and play with their little Japanese brothers and sisters.

We reluctantly left the kindergarten after a juice break. Nobody soon forgets this experience.

We went back to the high school and the kids attended classes and afternoon club activies with their homestay brothers and sisters.

At 5:30 we had the Sayonara party. Japanese parents brought the most amazing combination of foods-everything from hand-made sushi to oden to Kentucky Fried Chicken. There were lots of speeches, tears, a kendo demonstration, photos and thank-you speeches by our students.
The kids went home with their families to enjoy their last night in Japan. The homestay families are always sad to let their new kids go...they are so kind and welcoming to our students.

Friday, April 14

Visit Himeji Minami High School

Travel by bus to the airport

Students arrived at school in the morning with their homestay siblings and attended classes. Some were observers and others were asked to be the main event! Our students are to be congratulated for their flexibility and willingness to give anything a try!

We boarded the bus to the airport at 11:00 with the homestay siblings and had a great two-hour ride. The kids were so sad to leave and the Himeji students cried and hugged everybody.

We checked in and went through customs-waving to each other until the last chance to see each other was over. That is always the hardest part.

We flew a shorter time-just over 9 hours, changed planes in San Francisco with a 2 hour lay-over. Some students were very happy to have some American food!

The flight to Seattle seemed very short by comparision and many people slept right through.

Friday, April 14

Arrive in Seattle

Thanks to parents for arriving on time-the teachers were every bit as tired as the students and appreciated your on-time arrival and enthisiastic thank-yous! We have worked hard for your kids and know that you all appreciate it. We take your appreciation and thanks as compensation so thanks for your thanks! We know the importance of a larger world-view and the experience that travel can bring to our students and hope that any time you can help other students have such experiences that you will.


Flight Information:

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006
Seattle to San Francisco
United Airlines flt. 977
Departs: 7:20 am
Arrives: 9:29 am
Flight Time: 2 hrs, 9 min
IMPORTANT**Please arrive at Sea-Tac by 5:30 at the latest**IMPORTANT

San Francisco to Osaka, Japan
United Airlines flt. 885
Departs: 12:52 pm
Arrives: 4:35 pm
Flight Time: 11 hrs, 43 min

Friday, April 14th, 2006

Osaka, Japan to San Francisco
United Airlines flt. 886
Departs: 3:25 pm
Arrives: 9:03 am
Flight Time: 9 hrs, 38 min

San Francisco to Seattle
United Airlines flt. 970
Departs: 12:48 pm
Arrives: 2:55 pm
Flight Time: 2 hrs, 7 min


Check our flight status

Wishing for more information about Japan?  Click away...

Yokoso! Japan

Buddhism in Japan

Shintoism in Japan

Mt. Shosha

Thanks to the students and staff of Himeji Minami High School and to Williams Sensei for making this visit possible!